Mystery of Mysteries

The rocks on the coast abounded with great black lizards, between three and four feet long; and on the hills, an ugly yellowish-brown species was equally common. We saw many of this latter kind.... The archipelago is a little world within itself, or rather a satellite attached to America, whence it has derived a few stray colonists, and has received the general character of its indigenous productions.... Seeing every height crowned with its crater, and the boundaries of most of the lava-streams still distinct, we are led to believe that within a period geologically recent the unbroken ocean was here spread out. Hence, both in space and time, we seem to be brought somewhat near to that great fact -- that mystery of mysteries -- the first appearance of new beings on this earth.

Charles Darwin embarked on his five-year Beagle voyage on this day in 1831. The above excerpt from Darwin’s notebook diary, later published as The Voyage of the Beagle, reflects his wonder at the geological-biological footprint in the Galápagos Islands. Carol Ann Bassett quotes the same passage in the Introduction to her 2009 study, Galápagos at the Crossroads: Pirates, Biologists, Tourists, and Creationists Battle for Darwin's Cradle of Evolution -- before she proceeds to develop her thesis that the islands are "on a collision course with 21st-century values driving tourism and immigration, and with invasive species that prey on the very life-forms which make the Galápagos special."

 


Daybook is contributed by Steve King, who teaches in the English Department of Memorial University in St. John's, Newfoundland. His literary daybook began as a radio series syndicated nationally in Canada. He can be found online at todayinliterature.com.

 

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

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